Tourism industry pushes for one-off public holiday to boost economy - and the Government is considering it

Sean Hogan
Source: 1News

The tourism industry and operators are pushing for a one-off public holiday this year to help boost their recovery and help desperate operators.

With profitable long weekends like Anzac Day and Easter spent in Alert Level 4 lockdown, a one-off long weekend could be used to encourage Kiwis to get on the road to their favourite destinations.

After Queen's Birthday weekend on the 1st of June, there isn’t a nationwide long weekend until Labour Day at the end of October.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa's Chris Roberts told 1 NEWS operators' takings can triple on long weekends.

“Some tourism operators say that their takings are 200-300 per cent up when they have a long weekend, and they know that from past patterns. Already the existing public holidays we have are an incredibly important part of domestic tourism, and given what we've gone through another day off, not a bad idea.”

He says it could stimulate struggling regional economies in usually quiet periods.

“We could see tens of millions of additional spend happening and into places that are not normally going to get that money. So getting people out of the cities out into the regional areas and spending a little money in places that have been really hard hit by all of the impacts of Covid-19.”

Mr Roberts says the holiday could be tied to the Māori New Year Matariki, which falls in July this year, which has been talked about before as possible extra public holiday.

Hastings Top 10 Holiday Park owner Sharelle Creswell says the tap has been turned off on their business and is in support of an extra long weekend, where business usually doubles with many travelling families coming to stay.

“We are really busy in a long weekend. We fill up all the rooms all the campsites,” says Ms Creswell.

"I think it would be really helpful for everyone in Hawke’s Bay.”

Tourism ministers in Ireland are also looking at the possibility and have publicly backed the idea for an extra holiday later in the year.

One-off public holidays have been declared by New Zealand governments before. Kiwis were given days off to celebrate peace after the end of the first and second world wars.

When asked today about the idea, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern didn’t rule it out and says they are looking at different ideas to try stimulate the domestic tourism market.

"We are as a Government thinking as we speak around the ideas to encourage New Zealanders to come and see their own backyard," said Ms Ardern.

"So there’s a range of things that sit within that and those are things we’re giving active consideration to."

However, the Employers and Manufacturers Association says already under-pressure businesses would face huge costs from holiday pay and productivity would suffer.

Chief executive Brett O’Riley suggests many employers could look at implementing four-day working weeks to try to increase productivity and ultimatly lead to more time off for staff to go explore the country or holiday.

He says that would also mean less pressure put on tourism operators as not everyone would be arriving at once.